Leveraging Incentives for Alternative Audiences

By: Christina Zurek
Call center employee talking to a customer

When it comes to learning about a new product or service, who do you trust?

Family? Friends? Your online circle? You’re not alone.

The most credible form of advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. Eighty-three percent (83%) of online respondents in 60 countries say they trust the recommendations of friends and family, according to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report.  

Not shockingly, today’s customers are guarded around salespeople.  But that doesn’t mean organizations are out of luck trying to influence their customers.

Service reps. Technicians. Service contact call centers. These roles understand the products and services customers are using and are in a unique position to generate referrals for your brand. They may not necessarily be employed by the company that offers the product or service but they hold a position of trust with customers nonetheless. They understand the customer's situation and, as a result, can be viewed as a trusted resource to recommend an ancillary solution.

Take a look at the industry-specific examples below of how organizations have leveraged these non-traditional direct and channel audiences to create connections—and valuable revenue streams—through new or existing customers. 

Technology Industry

A great partnership can start where you might least expect it. Take the case of CPA firms. They are quickly becoming a steady source of referrals for technology manufacturers. And with good reason. When a CPA is working on a business customer’s taxes, they’re already a trusted advisor to that organization. They may have been working with them for years—already having established a rapport—and know what works best for that customer based on their business needs.

Technology companies are picking up on this trend and formalizing referral incentive programs for these trusted advisor roles. Take Expensify, an expense management technology provider, for example. The Expensify referral program was designed for technology services consultants and cloud evangelists, looking for best-in-breed cloud solutions for their clients. But it has a steady reputation beyond those partner types and is a preferred partner for the AICPA and CPA.com. By looking outside of traditional tech consultancies and rewarding businesses who recognize a client’s need for this solution, they’ve greatly expanded their reach within the channel.

Telecom Industry

Imagine you have a service technician in your home helping to fix an issue with your internet. While there, they happen to notice you have the latest video game console next to your TV and a couple tablets as well. Since this likely means the homeowners use multiple devices at one time, he recommends you consider their new high speed internet that will cut down on lag time while streaming and get you the new high-def resolution.

The program ITA Group created for Verizon focused on non-sales employees, primarily in customer facing work groups, to watch for visual and/or verbal clues during normal customer interactions. They make recommendations for products and services and, with the customer’s consent, submit referrals to Verizon sales offices. Referrals are then routed to the appropriate sales channel. The customer is contacted by sales associates, and the sale is completed. In exchange for the successful referral, the service technician earns a reward.

Over the years, the programs have generated over $1B of incremental revenue for Verizon.

Employees have interacted with millions of customers and have generated referrals on their behalf. The results are staggering when you put into context that these interactions, referrals and revenue generation numbers are the result of non-sales employees voluntarily participating in the various programs.

Automotive (Vehicles) Industry

Current customers of a service or product should also be seen as critical brand advocates worthy of engagement. The vast majority (more than 80%) of Americans seek recommendations when making a purchase of any kind.

Tesla’s referral program capitalizes on this buyer behavior and offers perks to its current customers for referring their friends and family to the company. If you use a current customer’s referral code to buy a new Tesla Model S or Model X, you get a compelling incentive: free, unlimited charging at Tesla Supercharging stations across the country, plus a $750 credit towards service or vehicle accessories. If someone uses your referral code to place a car order with Tesla, you’re also eligible for a reward. Referral rewards for Tesla cars differ based on the number of customers you successfully refer to Tesla.

In one earning structure, they could get special wheels—a set of 21-inch forged aluminum Arachnid wheels which the company claims will offer improved performance—after five qualifying referral sales. Given that these wheels are not available for purchase, having the Arachnid wheels is akin to having a badge of honor.

Automotive (Parts/Aftermarket) Industry

Auto part manufacturers are another example of an industry that thrives on the smart usage of incentive programs to create brand advocacy. They’re the ones who make all the parts you buy when you go to places like Auto Zone or Pep Boys, and they supply parts to automobile dealerships around the world.

Take windshield wiper blades for example. Without the use of incentive programs, your service technicians will probably stick to the products they know, and may not offer new and different brands. A channel incentive program gives the manufacturer a way to create brand awareness and advocacy by offering service technicians rewards for learning about their products and then recommending them to customers.

Service Industry

At ITA Group, we created a channel incentive that tripled the loan volume of enrolled F&I Managers at auto, RV and marine dealerships. The program was designed so that F&I managers at a car dealership would recommend a loan through a certain bank. The dealership and manager would then receive a reward in exchange for sending business the bank’s way.

And the results were incredible. Increased loan volume in the billions (95%). Off-the-charts ROI (254%). And a very engaged and loyal channel (89%).

Looking ahead, every organization needs to be thinking about how various roles impact the buyer’s journey and overall brand awareness. Once those roles are identified, they can offer compelling motivation to those alternative audiences who may be in a position to drive success. Incentives go a long way to aligning people with your organization’s brand and products. By engaging the non-sales people your customers trust already—whether they are partner organizations, other employees in your organization or even your own customers—you can add more dollars to your bottom line.

Christina Zurek
Christina Zurek

Christina is an experienced leader with a passion for improving the employee experience, employee engagement and workplace culture. Few things excite her as much as an opportunity to try something unfamiliar (be that a project, development opportunity, travel destination, food, drink or otherwise), though digging in to a research project is a close second.